“Why should the Australian Government be frightened if New Zealand chooses to act with compassion?” The Catholic Diocese of Auckland Justice and Peace Commission ask the Australian Government to let New Zealand resettle asylum seekers on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. Labelling the living conditions of the detainees a “violation of basic human dignity”, the Commission appeal for solidarity and compassion. In doing so they point to Pope Francis’ encouragement not to be afraid of refugees. Furthermore they affirm that Catholic teaching urges us to focus on the needs of the most vulnerable. They urge the Australian government to accept New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s 1 November offer to take into New Zealand 150 refugees from the Manus Island detention camp. Auckland Justice & Peace Commission Statement Read their media release here: [gview file=”https://social-spirituality.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/manus-island-akl-catholic-jp-news-release-15nov17.pdf”]. Learn more about Catholic Social Teaching and seeking asylum Basic teachings Inspirational quotes What the Australian Catholic Bishops say
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding on Manus Island following the closure of the Australian funded immigration detention centre on 31 October 2017. Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen is the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference spokesperson on asylum seekers and refugees. He made the following statement on 3 November. Bishop Long’s Statement “The safety and well-being of over 600 asylum seekers on Manus Island are at risk following the closure of the regional processing centre. These men, most of whom are proven refugees were held in mandatory and indefinite detention under an agreement between the Australian and PNG Governments. Now after more than four years, this agreement has not worked. It has failed to provide welfare and safety to the detainees. Furthermore, very few have been resettled elsewhere. Australia, which authorised the detention of these asylum seekers in the first place, cannot abrogate its responsibility. The situation on Manus Island is turning into a humanitarian disaster and it is a direct result of our governments’ failed policy. As a nation that prides itself on its respect for the rule of law and its globally responsible citizenship, we must find a workable and principled solution. It is time for us to deal with the issue of asylum seekers and refugees according to this nation’s proud tradition and the best nature of its citizens. We can do a whole lot better, just as we did welcome “those who’ve come across the seas” after the wars in Europe and in Southeast Asia. The concern for maritime border security does not have to make us into a mean-spirited people. This is not who our First Peoples are, nor should it be the characterisation of all Australians today. The policy of offshore detention has cost Australia dearly. But it has cost the detainees and their families even more. I appeal to the government and political leaders to act in accordance with our honourable tradition. It is time to find an alternative and unconscionable solution, including accepting New Zealand’s offer of resettlement and bringing the remaining detainees on Manus Island to Australia. Those who are not refugees can be held here in secure detention until they are returned home. Those refugees accepted for entry to the US can migrate when their vetting processes are complete. The other refugees need to be able get on with their lives here in safety. People seeking asylum are some of the most vulnerable members of our global community. It is imperative that they are treated humanely and with dignity. I urge the Australian Government to honour its international obligations, and continue its work within the region and with non-government organisations to ensure the safety of those seeking asylum.” Source: https://parracatholic.org/closure-of-manus-island-regional-processing-centre/ More on Catholic Social Teaching Concerning Asylum Seekers & Refugees The basic teachings concerning refugees are explained here. Teachings concerning migration are explored here.
Migrants, Refugees & the Gospel of Mercy The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office has prepared a kit for Migrant and Refugee Sunday 2016. It will help individuals, parishes, schools and communities to celebrate the event. The kit shares Pope Francis’ World Day of Migration Message for 2016, and a message from Bishop Vincent Long. Bishop Long is the Australian Bishops’ Delegate for Migrants and Refugees and himself arrived in Australia as a refugee. The Migrant and Refugee Sunday kit also provides liturgy and prayer materials and an article about Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini. She is the universal patron saint of immigrants and we will celebrate the centenary of her death next year. Linking the event to the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Bishop Long said “as Christians, our attitude towards those in need is formed by our own experience of God’s love and mercy.” Thus “we can show them the love and mercy of God precisely because we ourselves are the recipients of the same love and mercy.” He sees “encounter and acceptance of others” as being “intertwined with the encounter and acceptance of God himself.” Hence “welcoming others means welcoming God in person!” Bishop Long declared that the Australian Bishops “stand united with Pope Francis who has given us strong leadership on the care of asylum seekers and refugees.” His message welcomes the active assistance given by Catholic organisations and parishes to refugees and asylum seekers. He encouraged all Catholics “to enact the culture of encounter, welcome and acceptance in practical, personal and communal ways.” Get the Kit Download the Migrant and Refugee Sunday 2016 Kit here.
Bishop Vincent Long responded on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops to a High Court finding on 3 February 2016 that the offshore processing of the refugee status claims of asylum seekers is not contrary to Australian law. He called for compassion and mercy for families currently in Australia who are threatened with return to offshore processing centres, asking the Australian Government to focus on protecting these vulnerable people from harm and respecting their dignity. Bishop Long is the Chair of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council and the Bishops Conference’s spokesperson on refugees. He said: “I urge the Australian Government to ensure that no child is subject to an unsafe and harmful environment and that no-one is returned to where they may face physical, psychological and sexual violence and harm.” “The Catholic Church opposes mandatory detention and offshore detention because these policy responses do not respect the dignity of people seeking our help.” Read the full statement here.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s social justice statement for 2015-2016 is titled For Those Who’ve Come Across the Seas, making reference to the second verse of the national anthem. It is a strong call for justice for refugees and asylum seekers. The Bishops critique the policy responses of successive Australian governments to the relatively small numbers of people seeking asylum in Australia who arrive by boat. They also acknowledge the work being done by social service and community organisations to welcome asylum seekers and refugees while encouraging the community to do more. The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council provides a range of associated resources that complement the Social Justice Statement including a powerpoint presentation, a prayer card, community action resource and an action leaflet. Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen, Chair of the Council, himself arrived in Australia by boat seeking asylum as a teenager. At the launch of the Statement he said: “‘Australia, like every other nation, has the right to regulate migration flows and assess the status of people seeking protection within its borders. And, certainly, we should be working to stop people smuggling and preventing deaths at sea. But these concerns must not lead us to treat asylum seekers and refugees with cruelty, harshness and injustice. Australia cannot claim the moral high ground and justify its policies by claiming they prevent deaths of asylum seekers at sea, when it offers no other way of giving protection and organising any avenue of safe arrival.” He also welcomed the announcement that morning by the Australian Government that 12,000 more Syrian refugees would be accepted.